Hurricane Season: Staying Safe in your RV

Your safety and the safety of your family is most important, so develop a hurricane preparedness plan before a hurricane strikes

Stormy conditions appear to be on the horizon for the 2020 hurricane season with government forecasters announcing the possibility of an “extremely active” period. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in its pre-season outlook there’s a 60 percent chance of an above-normal hurricane season which officially starts June 1 and runs until November 30.

Rokport-Fulton, Texas following Hurricane Harvey, a Cat 4 hurricane (August 25, 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

NOAA forecasters are calling for 13 to 19 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher; of those, six to 10 could become hurricanes. Among those hurricanes, three to six will be major, classified as Category 3, 4, and 5 with winds of 111 mph or higher.

Rokport-Fulton, Texas following Hurricane Harvey, a Cat 4 hurricane (August 25, 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With hurricane season officially upon us, it’s important to know the ins and outs of RV safety—when to ride out a tropical storm and when it’s time to head out of Dodge to a safer locale. Motorhomes and travel trailers are ideal ‘survival’ vehicles during natural disasters. When faced with a possible hurricane, your recreational vehicle can transport you, your loved ones, and your home to a safer place.

Goose Island State Park, Texas following Hurricane Harvey, a Cat 4 hurricane (August 25, 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here’s what you need to know.

Hurricane season is no joke. The devastating power of these twisting tropical storms is humbling—and it can change your life, or even end it, in a second. That’s why folks who live near the coastal areas most vulnerable to hurricanes carefully track each storm over the course of the season, even the small ones. It might just end up being a tropical depression that spins off harmlessly into the ocean… but you just can’t be too careful when dealing with nature’s fury.

Goose Island State Park, Texas following Hurricane Harvey, a Cat 4 hurricane (August 25, 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course, that goes double, if not triple, for those of us who live or travel in a recreational vehicle. We’ll cut right to the chase: no matter what kind of rig you call home, an RV is not a safe place to ride out a hurricane. In fact, even tropical storms and smaller thunderstorms can cause serious and life-threatening damage to your home-on-wheels.

The Big Tree at Goose Island State Park, Texas stood firm during Hurricane Harvey, a Cat 4 hurricane (August 25, 2017). Your RV would not be this fortunate. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nature’s fury has a knack of catching you off-guard; hurricanes are no exceptions. Hurricanes pack enough punch to destroy everything in their wake and in those times it is best to be prepared for an immediate evacuation. Tropical storms and hurricanes are unpredictable to a large extent and must not be treated lightly. Your RV can become your best friend and your ticket to safety if you take certain safety measures for yourself and your vehicle.

Fortunately this was not a major storm approaching Capitol City RV Park in Montgomery, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you’re traveling by RV, the weather takes on a whole new level of importance. Motorhomes and travel trailers are not safe places to take shelter during extreme weather events which means it’s critical to stay up to date and alert about changing weather patterns and potential severe weather warnings in your area. It’s not melodramatic to say that your life and the lives of your family could hang in the balance.

Sunrise RV Park in Texarkana, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fortunately, the same feature that makes RVs an unsafe place to weather a storm makes it relatively easy to avoid bad weather in the first place: they’re on wheels! Evacuation is the key to surviving a hurricane in an RV. It may actually take days to reach a safe destination. In addition, the path of the storm may change requiring you to change directions.

Eagles Landing RV Park, Auburn, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t wait too long and get stuck in heavy traffic with last minute, mandatory evacuees. As soon as you know a hurricane is likely to come your way, load up your RV and head out before the Interstate becomes a virtual parking lot.

Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prepare an emergency kit by stocking your RV with items such as water, non-perishable foods, and prescription medications. Before the storm, fill your vehicle with fuel and check the windshield wipers and tires. Place your RV and house insurance documents, vehicle registration, title, passport, and other important documents in a waterproof bag and keep them with you.

Buckhorn RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep handy items such as tarps, flashlights and extra batteries, candles and extra lighters or waterproof matches, disposable garbage bags, NOAA Weather Radio, first aid kit, and a toolkit ready at all times.

Stay safe out there!

Worth Pondering…

In reality, you don’t ever change the hurricane. You just learn how to stay out of its path.     

—Jodi Picoult

Arrival of Summer: On Dehydration, Hurricane Season & RVs

Many summer deaths are caused by dehydration especially during heat waves

With the official start to summer looming the prospect of becoming dehydrated is an ever-present danger. Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions, according to Mayo Clinic. If you don’t replace lost fluids, you will get dehydrated.

Folly Beach, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anyone may become dehydrated but the condition is especially dangerous for young children and older adults. Older adults naturally have a lower volume of water in their bodies and may have conditions or take medications that increase the risk of dehydration.

This is your friendly reminder to drink some water. Go fill up your water bottle, I’ll wait. 

Good? 

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alright, let’s get after it.

The arrival of summer also means the beginning of hurricane season and experts think it’s going to be a doozy. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center shows a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30.

Storm damage at Rockport from Hurricane Harvey (August 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a likely range of 13 to 19 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher) of which six to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher) including three to six major hurricanes (category 3, 4, or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with a 70 percent confidence. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes including three major hurricanes.

Storm damage at Fulton from Hurricane Harvey (August 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But that’s not the most alarming hurricane-related news you’ll read this month. On June 1, a Texas Rep. introduced a bill to Congress that would “prohibit the President from deploying any strategic weapon such as a nuclear bomb for purposes of altering weather patterns or addressing climate change and for other purposes.”

What??

Storm damage at Goose Island State Park from Hurricane Harvey (August 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As crazy as it sounds, scientists and world leaders have considered using nuclear bombs as hurricane disruptors for decades. Indeed, the idea of nuking the weather into submission is nothing new: According to James Fleming, a professor at Colby College and author of “Fixing the Sky: The checkered history of weather and climate control,” people have been discussing the possibility for almost as long as nuclear weapons have existed.

Storm damage at Goose Island State Park from Hurricane Harvey (August 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In October 1945, Vladimir Zworykin, associate research director at Radio Corporation of America, suggested that if humans had technology to perfectly predict the weather, military forces could be sent out to disrupt storms before they formed perhaps using atomic bombs. That same year, UNESCO director Julian Huxley spoke at an arms control conference in Manhattan where he discussed using nuclear weapons for “landscaping the Earth” or dissolving the polar ice cap. In a 1961 speech at the National Press Club, U.S. Weather Bureau head Francis Reichelderfer said he could “imagine the possibility someday of exploding a nuclear bomb on a hurricane far at sea,” according to a 2016 report by National Geographic.

The Big Tree at Goose Island State Park following Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s been enough conversation around nuking hurricanes that the NOAA felt compelled to address it on its FAQ page.

The agency’s take: “Needless to say, this is not a good idea.”

Storm damage at Goose Island State Park from Hurricane Harvey (August 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

+ Go deeper: National Geographic wrote a great history of nukes and hurricanes. If you are really interested in the topic, read “Fixing the Sky” that charts humanity’s attempts to control the weather through engineering. 

Storm damage at Goose Island State Park from Hurricane Harvey (August 2017) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you’re traveling by RV, the weather takes on a whole new level of importance. Motorhomes and travel trailers are not safe places to take shelter during extreme weather events which means it’s critical to stay up to date and alert about changing weather patterns and potential severe weather warnings in your area. It’s not melodramatic to say that your life and the lives of your family could hang in the balance.

Know when it’s time to leave Dodge (Botany Bay on Edisto Island, South Carolina) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fortunately, the same feature that makes RVs an unsafe place to weather a storm makes it relatively easy to avoid bad weather in the first place: they’re on wheels!

Worth Pondering…

In reality, you don’t ever change the hurricane. You just learn how to stay out of its path.     

—Jodi Picoult

Discover Why Rockport is the Charm of the Texas Coast

The Native Americans figured it out first, as far as we know

Find yourself in Rockport-Fulton and discover why Rockport-Fulton is the Charm of the Texas Coast. You’ll find a sandy beach, a birder’s paradise, a thriving arts community, unique shopping, delectable seafood, unlimited outdoor recreation, historical sites, and great fishing.

Rockport harbor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life around Rockport-Fulton changed dramatically August 25, 2017 when Hurricane Harvey, a powerful Cat 4 hurricane, made landfall directly across the area.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The quaint fishing village of Rockport has been a favorite coastal hideaway and snowbird roost for many years. Rockport’s recovery since Hurricane Harvey two years ago counts among the great feel-good stories in Texas history. Rebounding in stunning ways, this little art colony beloved by visitors since the 1950s for its fishing, bay setting, and frequent festivals feels fresh again.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the shores of Aransas Bay, the Copanes—a band of the Karankawas—made the most of coastal resources to support their lives as nomadic hunter-gatherers. They wadded the shallow lagoons, spearing redfish with bows-and-arrows. They scooped up oysters, tossing the shells into middens that grew over decades into mounds 65 yards long. They ventured inland on the coastal prairie tracking deer and foraging for berries and cactus fruit.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The region provided sustenance enough to support them and their predecessors for thousands of years. Even today, the Coastal Bend’s natural resources and moderate climate remain the primary attraction for visitors to the Rockport-Fulton area. Be it sportfishing, bird-watching, seafood, shopping, the arts, water recreation, or simply relaxing in the shade of wind-sculpted live oaks life here still revolves around Aransas Bay.

Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Think of the Copanes as being the original Winter Texans. They would spend their winters here along the shorelines feeding on a diet of oysters, shrimp, and other seafood. And then during the spring and summer months they’d travel up the rivers and streams and hunt game.

Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rockport-Fulton offers a range of activities to keep you busy for a week or so. Many visitors find the area inviting enough to stay for longer. During the cold months, Winter Texans nearly double Rockport-Fulton’s population of 10,000 residents.

Fulton © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A common starting point for visitors is the Rockport-Fulton Visitor Center. A timeline of local history spans a wall of the center and highlights important moments such as Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Piñeda’s mapping of the Texas coast in 1519, U.S. General Zachary Taylor’s 1845 encampment on Live Oak Peninsula en route to the Mexican War, and the establishment of tourist attractions such as the Texas Maritime Museum in 1989.

Texas Maritime Museum, Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Maritime Museum sits across the street from the Visitor Center among a cluster of tourist sites adjacent to Rockport Harbor. The museum covers various subjects including the tale of French explorer La Salle’s ill-fated expedition to Texas—illustrated by a striking five-foot-long wooden scale model of the shipwrecked La Belle and artifacts from the shipwreck such as knives and axe heads. The museum also delves into other seafaring topics including navigational devices, boat-building tools, the Texas Navy, and offshore drilling.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also at Rockport Harbor, the Rockport Center for the Arts hosts a wide variety of exhibits, special events, education workshops and classes for children and adults, performing arts, sculpture garden, and much more. The Center is a hub for The Arts in the beautiful coastal Rockport Fulton area. After 48 years, the Center re-established operations on South Austin Street in the wake of devastation sustained to the original building from Hurricane Harvey. The new facility is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and admission is free. 

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Aquarium at Rockport Harbor was destroyed in Hurricane Harvey. Plans are in the works for a new and improved center with exhibits about local habitats as well as the creatures that thrive in the rich blend of fresh water and seawater including oysters, blue crabs, and whooping cranes.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come evening, after a day of exploring Rockport-Fulton’s coastal scene, a fitting way to reflect on the experience is from the shade of one of these magnificent live oaks. As the bright orange sun sinks into the horizon, a gentle breeze blows ashore, and the aroma of fresh fish smokes from the grill, it’s easy to understand why the Copanes chose this stretch of the Texas coast for their home and why others have followed them ever since.

Rockport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan

A 1,000-Year-Old Texas Oak Tree Stands Firm

A natural treasure weathered the calamitous storm

Life around Rockport changed dramatically August 25, 2017 when Hurricane Harvey, a powerful Cat 4 hurricane, made landfall directly across the area. The storm forced people from their homes and patients from hospitals and turned quiet streets into turbulent torrents. For millions of residents it was a terrifying, catastrophic, tragedy.

The Big Tree following Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amid this ongoing disaster, one iconic local inhabitant stood its ground: the magnificent Big Tree at Goose Island State Park, 10 miles north of Rockport. With a height of 44 feet, circumference of 35 feet, and crown spanning roughly 90 feet, the massive coastal live oak has survived Mother Nature’s fiercest storms including Hurricane Harvey for more than 1,000 years.

The Big Tree following Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Facebook page posted a photo of the tree on August 28, surrounded by the wreckage of its brethren. Younger trees, they wrote, might have perished in the calamitous storm—but “you don’t get old by being weak.” Texans seem to have found some solace in this 44-foot pillar of strength. Local resident Dana Brotherwood thanked them for putting the photo up, adding: “I know it’s silly but if he can make it, then no matter what else we as Texans can keep going. I am just so happy to see this.”

The Big Tree signage following Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Big Tree, as it’s usually known, is one of the oldest, most well known live oak trees in the United States. In its 1,000 years, it has survived hurricanes, fires, and even an 1864 Civil War battle that razed the rest of the town, Lamar, to the ground. The tree has its own dark history as well, as it has variously been associated with hangings, cannibalism, or pirates.

The Big Tree following Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite technically being the second-oldest live oak in the state—dethroned in 2003 by the discovery of an older tree in Brazoria County—it is much beloved and has inspired some fervent tributes from local poets, mostly written from the tree’s perspective.

The Big Tree prior to Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The “Big Tree” statistics:

  • Trunk circumference:  35 feet 1.75 inches or 10.71 meters
  • Average trunk diameter:  11 feet 2.25 inches or 3.41 meters
  • Crown spread:  89 feet or 27.1 meters
  • Height:  44 feet or 13.4 meters
  • Age:  In excess of 1,000 years
The Big Tree following Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The tree has inspired several poems. A favorite is by local resident Mary Hoekstra:

I have gathered sun and rain to grow green leaves,
Swaying softly in spring, rustling like applause in fall.

My limbs have shaded generations;
My roots have reached for centuries;
My children and their children’s children surround me,
Here in this peaceful part of my land.

The Big Tree prior to Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Golden sunlight diamonds have glinted on the ground around me.
Cold fingers of ice have touched my heartwood.
Dust-dry days of sandstorms have scoured my skin.
Torrents of rain, driven by gales have rushed at me,
And I have swayed, but stayed unbroken.
Silver moonlight has kept me company many a night.

The Big Tree following Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yet through all the seasons, sorrows, bitterness, and beauty,
All of the history I have withstood and witnessed,
There has been one thing I could not do.

I could not grow green dollars, or silver, or gold.

About a mile from the Big Tree following Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Will you help me, standing here before me?
Then we may both grow old together,
As old friends should,
One of flesh, one of wood.

The Big Tree prior to Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are smaller live oaks surrounding this venerable old tree almost as beautiful. The age of it and the graceful, gnarly limbs pulled me, too, towards it. Maybe I thought of it as a survivor—a testament to standing in the face of adversity.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

You don’t get old by being weak.

Life by the Bay: Goose Island State Park

Lapping water and Gulf breezes: We must be on the coast!

Bounded by the waters of the St. Charles, Copano, and Aransas bays, 314-acre Goose Island State Park is a coastal delight. Popular with Winter Texans during winter months, birders during spring and fall migration, and campers year-round, Goose Island State Park is located 10 miles north of Rockport, off State Highway 35.

Goose Island State Park before Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life around Rockport changed dramatically August 25, 2017 when Hurricane Harvey, a powerful Cat 4 hurricane, made landfall directly across the area. The storm forced people from their homes and patients from hospitals and turned quiet streets into turbulent torrents.

Goose Island State Park after Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We first visited Goose Island State Park in December 2011. During our recent visit earlier this month we noted that recovery efforts are under way. The east end of the island, the fishing pier, the Group Hall, and all overnight camping on the Bayfront side is closed to public access due to park construction and repairs. These closures are expected to last several months. This will impact fishing and birding access and other day use activities.

Goose Island State Park before Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors to the Island engage in a variety of activities, including camping, birding, fishing, boating, water sports, picnicking, hiking, photography, geocaching, and wildlife observation. A leisurely 1-mile hiking trail is available. Swimming is not recommended as the shoreline has concrete bulkheads, oyster shells, mud flats, and marsh grass.

Goose Island State Park after Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goose Island State Park is best known for two celebrated residents, one of which is the Big Tree—an enormous 1,000 year old coastal live oak that has survived prairie fires, Civil War battles, and hurricanes. The other resident is the rare endangered whooping crane that returns to the area every winter.

The Big Tree before Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A small bridge connects the main portion of the park—one of the oldest in the state park system—to a small sliver of sand that gives the park its name. The ancient barrier island has been shrinking due to erosion caused by Gulf currents and wave action from the surrounding bays. Stepped-up efforts in recent years, including installation of offshore rock breakwater, dredging, and marsh restoration projects, have stabilized the island’s shell ridge, oyster beds, seagrass shoals, tidal flats, and salt marshes.

The Big Tree after Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Approximately 500 bird species have been recorded in the area, including the whooping cranes which spend each winter in the coastal marshes of nearby Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Bayside camping at Goose Island State Park before Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Developed RV campsites in a secluded, wooded area are available, all with water and electric service. Amenities include a fire ring, outdoor grill, and picnic table. There are also 25 walk-in tent sites without electricity. The park can accommodate a maximum of 64 in the one-acre Group Camping Area. Covered picnic tables (the Park calls them “open cabanas”) are all that remain of the Bayside camping area following Hurricane Harvey.

Wooded area camping at Goose Island State Park after Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fishing opportunities include speckled trout, redfish, drum, and flounder; crabs and oysters are abundant as well. There is a regular boat launch and a kayak/canoe launch (bring your own boat). A fish cleaning station is provided. You do not need a fishing license to fish from shore or pier in a Texas state park.

Goose Island State Park before Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A nearby adjunct of the state park holds the magnificent Big Tree. With a height of 44 feet, circumference of 35 feet and crown spanning roughly 90 feet, the massive coastal live oak has survived Mother Nature’s fiercest storms including Hurricane Harvey for more than 1,000 years.

Goose Island State Park after Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Facebook page posted a photo of the tree following the storm surrounded by the wreckage of its brethren. Younger trees, they wrote, might have perished in the calamitous storm—but “you don’t get old by being weak.” Texans seem to have found some solace in this 44-foot pillar of strength.

Goose Island State Park after Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goose Island State Park was initially built in the ’30s by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC).

Goose Island State Park after Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To reach the state park drive 10 miles north of Rockport on Texas Highway 35 to Park Road 13. Travel two miles on Park Road 13 to reach the park entrance. 

Goose Island State Park after Hurricane Harvey © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive carefully as you enter the Park and drive through the Park—some of the roads are narrow and tree lined with low or overhanging branches.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

The forces of nature and their impact on the Texas landscape and sky combine to offer an element of drama that would whet the imagination of artists from any medium.

—Wyman Meinzer